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Attention Doctors! We Will Be There When We Get There…

This week’s PhREI network guest post is from none other than Ian Cook A.K.A. Carpe Diem MD. This is one of my favorite posts of his. And I want to bring it to the attention of as many doctors as I can. He hits so many important points. And looking back, I definitely suffered from this when I was about to graduate training. Everyone was telling me things would magically be perfect and different, but I didn’t see how that was happening. Especially with my financial issues! This led me to take action and live more intentionally and within myself which has made all the difference. But its constant work…at least for me!

Anyway…Attention Doctors! And take it away Ian!

We all have our own unique Physician Origin story but with that said we do share one collective experience….

The path to becoming a physician was 8 years of higher education at a minimum.  Then add residency to the timeline of becoming a fully trained physician; that’s an additional 3 – 7 years plus fellowship.  

Therefore, 8 years to become a physician followed by 3-7 years for residency plus fellowships.  You are looking at 11 years to 18 years after graduating high school to become a fully trained Physician.

Now I know you all know the math…

You lived it but I am writing this out to let it hit home.   You have accomplished something that is truly amazing.   In addition, most of you had to make sacrifices to reach that goal.  Some also significantly delayed personal experiences to devote time to the study of Medicine to reach this goal.  

The GOAL was worth everything and the JOURNEY was just a means to that GOAL.   On arrival, to completing your lifelong goal of becoming a Physician you felt ecstatic.  You are a Doctor.  At graduation day you turned to your friends “ hi Doctor, Doctor, Doctor”  “Doctor I concur”.   The party was awesome. 

The upcoming intern year was exciting.   Residency was amazing, everything was new and you pushed yourself to new limits…. Near the end of residency you experienced some burnout…. Like a form of senioritis.   But that was ok because your lifelong goal was almost complete…. Becoming an Attending was just around the corner.

As an Attending everything would be Awesome.  At that stage you achieved your goal and as an added bonus your income would increase significantly…. Everything would be great and those student loans you ignored wouldn’t matter…..

Then something happened…

Arrival fallacy… You spent the last 11-18 years building up how great things would be once you reached your goal.  All the sacrifices and time spent would be worth it to reach that goal and become a great Physician.  

At first, it was Awesome.  You were helping patients and your practice was rewarding but over time you experienced less joy and financial burdens increased… You considered yourself burned out….

What else could it be… 

Arrival Fallacy:  “is the illusion that once we make it and once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.”

In reality, lasting happiness does not usually occur.   As a result, you may become disappointed and even disillusioned that the goal you spent over 10 years setting out to achieve does not provide the lasting happiness or the satisfaction that your expected.

Are you alone with this feeling?

You are not alone….

Completing the Goal of becoming a Physician can alter our mindset and perspective. 

attention doctors
As doctors, our attention needs to be on our patients…and ourselves

Having a goal has driven us for over half our life.  Arriving at that goal was amazing but we arrived there too.   Our same drive and personality that helped us achieve our GOAL becomes frustrated with the life of a seasoned Attending.  We have mastered our practice.  

Sadly, we are no longer amazed and excited to do procedures we have done 100s or thousands of times.  Our gratefulness and perspective has been lost. 

It sounds awful to say out loud but it is a sad day when you forget to realize how amazing you are and how important it is to practice medicine.  Maybe that is a product of the administration driven bureaucracy and electronic medical records. 

Or maybe a side effect of team based medicine

There are even societal pressures to decrease or remove the special title of Physician.  WE even do it to ourselves by down playing what we do as a profession…. No one wants to be the dude or dudette saying “hey look at me I‘m a doctor”….

In addition, as an Attending physician it is human nature to become used to what you do.  Taking care of patient’s becomes second nature… that is a good thing… you have mastered your craft… but often the cost is forgetting that what you do is still amazing.

Suturing a laceration is amazing, removing a foreign body from a….. nose (get your mind out of the gutter), every surgical procedure, delivering children into the world, diagnosing a medical condition the old way with a history and clinical exam is amazing.

You are not a data entry technician.  You are an amazing, complex, thinking Physician who changes the lives of your patients and most of us (60% of Emergency Physicians) forget this due to outside pressures and the sands of time. 

We have become used to what we do and think that our daily routine is normal

In a standard Emergency Medicine shift I reduced 2 dislocated shoulders, intubated three patients, ran a code, completed two laceration repairs, performed a paracentesis and saw 20 other patients with various medical complaints…. Just another day

In wound care day, I see at least 20 patients a day, perform 17 debridements and heal 3 patients that were told four months ago that they needed an amputation.  Just another day.

I no longer practice Emergency Medicine but I am still a EM Physician at heart but the principles and feeling from that specialty translate to Wound Care and all other specialties.

Today, you performed a limb saving revascularization, a craniotomy, a reconstructive breast surgery, lithotripsy, prostatectomy, appendectomy, the list is endless….

We forget that what we do is truly amazing…

So back to arrival fallacy…. After arriving at being an Attending everything was going to be awesome…. after 11-18 years of delayed gratification… and it was awesome but over time many of us lose that feeling….

Besides remembering that what we do is amazing we might also need to develop another GOAL….

I think that is why Physicians gravitate towards the financial world and especially real estate.

In this field you can set another GOAL that will take years to achieve and allows you to grow over time.  You thrive at setting and achieving your GOALS.  You are a Physician and have a proven track record of success by simply becoming a Physician. 

Set a new goal this year to achieve financial freedom, just remember to enjoy the journey. 

Don’t sacrifice you current lifestyle for delayed financial goals that in the worse case may never arrive and in the best case will result in a short-lived feeling of accomplishment until you set your next goal.  Keep setting GOALS and enjoying the journey. These may not be patient-oriented, but they are still important things for doctors to pay attention to!

In summary, you will be there when you get there

Don’t forget that being a Physician is a great privilege and that what you DO is amazing. Set new goals. You are used to working to achieve goals that take years of effort. It is okay and healthy to set goals outside of Medicine. Don’t forget to “Enjoy your Journey to Financial Freedom”. You deserve it.

What do you think? Is your attention more on yourself and your journey as doctors? Or is it on something else? Do you think you’ve experienced “arrival fallacy”? Let us know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected]

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